As of this writing, China isn’t making headlines for the most ideal reason. We at Autoindustriya.com are all about honest reviews, though, and with that, we bring you something straight out of China without the accompanying ill news: the GAC GS3. GAC, or Trumpchi as it is known in its home market, has not slowed down in bringing competitors in almost every auto segment in the Philippines, and the GS3 is a sub-compact crossover that we feel punches well above its weight class.
The GS3 is currently the smallest in GAC’s crossover lineup. That doesn’t mean that it’s short on the good stuff, though. Take for instance the color that this particular unit comes in. Aptly called Beeswax Yellow, the GS3 in this paint scheme screams for attention. But color aside it really is a rather handsome vehicle. Much like its bigger brother the GS8, it looks larger than it really is. On the outside, that’s good if you want to roll in with a lot of presence; plus you don’t have to worry about being disregarded by other bigger vehicles that you share the road with.
It still has the Flying Dynamics design dominating the front end. The grill is integrated perfectly with the “eagle-eye lens” headlights, making it look as if it’s one solid piece; very good in giving the GS3 a gruff look. It is also equipped with DRLs that provide an upmarket vibe to what is an affordable “budget” crossover. Classy.
From the side, the GS3 is clearly very minimalist in design. It’s a good detail, though, that angles and lines were added from fender to fender and across the upper borders of the doors. They give the GS3 a bit of a sportier, and dare we say rugged demeanor to it. We can clearly see the black accent pieces, too, from the side mirror stalk to the fender flares and side skirts. If anything, this is another detail that makes it look like a bigger car, err, crossover.
Up front, we see the massive chrome grill that we previously mentioned, and a nice silver accent piece on the front chin as well. On what would otherwise look like a drab front, these pieces strike to give the GS3 a balanced look overall.
On to the rear, GAC’s signature dual “8-shaped” taillights are encased in a long, wide, and angular housing. While some might worry about its visibility, allow us to say that this is not a problem at all. It’s actually very distinct and in day or low-light conditions, you can’t miss the unmistakable lights of the GS3.
One thing that we think should’ve been omitted is the dual faux exhaust ports incorporated into the rear bumper. While it’s not exactly an eyesore, it also stands out when one looks at the wide rear of the GS3. While it gives the illusion of a sporty twin exhaust, it’s actually sad to see that they actually are not. Form over function, as we always say. If it serves no real purpose, then maybe we can slap on something different, or do away with them from the start.
Another eye-catching detail is the GS3’s floating roof design. Granted, it’s become a trend rather than a unique characteristic of many vehicles of late, but it really adds a lot to this crossover’s character. We can’t say it enough that among its contenders, this vehicle is priced to sell, and for it to have classy cues such as this only makes the price tag more attractive.
A sunroof also comes standard. Personally, it’s something that I find no real novelty in, but for some, having one is a sure sign that a car was not scrimped on. For those who think so, then you have another plus point for the GS3.
Inasmuch as the outside looks good, so does the interior. Granted that there are still plastic bits present, it’s nice to know that GAC made sure that your hands land on soft-touch materials (most of the time). Quite uncommon too is the color of choice for the leather on the dashboard. Instead of opting for a deep brown, this has a slightly lighter hue. Personally, I lean towards the former, but this tone works well with the dominantly black interior.
The gauge cluster is well illuminated and gives you all the information you need at a quick glance. The steering wheel has all the controls you need for audio, cruise, and telephony as well. Piano black and chrome accent pieces round up the interior bits and give a more premium touch to the cabin.
Space-wise, both front and rear provide ample head and legroom. While it isn’t as spacious as the GS4 or GS8, it’s surprisingly good given the GS3’s size. Shoulder room may be a bit of a squeeze in the second row, but you wouldn’t often put 3 people in a sub-compact crossover, right?
The seats are a little bit on the harder side, but they’re still pliant. While padding could be improved, the materials and upholstery are top-notch, though. Not exactly something that helps with giving more comfort, but really, its cushions are not a deal-breaker by any means.
Cargo space, admittedly, does leave one wanting for a little bit more. Yes, the seatbacks do fold forward and increases capacity, but with a full cabin and a good number of bags, it’ll be a bit of a tight squeeze. The saving grace is that vertical cargo space is actually good. With the tonneau cover retracted, taller pieces can fit in the back with not much problems.
As for its performance, you may think that the numbers (on paper) are a bit… conservative. It makes 136 PS along with 202 Nm of torque. Hop in and get behind the wheel, and the GS3 gives you a bit of a surprise. While you’d expect a bit of lag from the turbo, there is enough torque in the bottom end to really get you going. Get spooling, and you’ll find it to be a quick crossover.
What really did come as a surprise is the supple ride quality. We got accustomed to both ends of the spectrum where a crossover is either a rattler or too soft. The GS3’s suspension is well balanced whether you are by your lonesome or with passengers and cargo. Sure you’ll feel a bit more bounce when you’re alone, but it isn’t uncomfortable at all. The dampers feel good in sweeping and even in quick turns, which we are starting to believe is a characteristic of any car with a GAC badge.
Consumption went up to about 10 km/l in full city driving, and highway drives improve it to about 15 km/l, give and take a few. And that’s with spirited bursts with boost, mind you.
With its PhP 1,058,000 price tag, what you’re getting is this top-of-the-line variant. Many may argue that with a bit more, you can get an American or Japan-made crossover instead. But that really is the name of the game, isn’t it: value for money. While you won’t be making headlines as much as the well-known brands, you can rest assured that the GAC GS3 punches above its weight class while bringing a lot more to the table. Badge conscious or not, the GS3 presents a great case and it is worth considering in a competitively priced market segment.